philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


Philip Lelyveld comments to EU – Preserving Democracy in the Digital Age

Here are my comments as one of five panelists before the EU commission exploring ways to combat Russian interference and 'fake news.' February 22, 2018 at EU headquarters in Brussels.IMG_8261 IMG_8266

180212a EU Preserving Democracy in the Digital Age


How to Monitor Fake News

By Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from 2013 to 2017, is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and a fellow at Harvard Kennedy School.

21wheelerWeb-master675The editorial decisions of a newspaper or television news program are immediately apparent (articles published, segments aired) and so can be readily analyzed for bias and effect. By contrast, the editorial decisions of social media algorithms are opaque and slow to be discovered — even to those who run the platforms. It can take days or weeks before anyone finds out what has been disseminated by social media software.

The government should require social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to use a similar open application programming interface. This would make it possible for third parties to build software to monitor and report on the effects of social media algorithms. (This idea has been proposed by Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian Google employee who helped organize the Tahrir Square uprising in 2011.)

And one effective form of information-sharing would be legally mandated open application programming interfaces for social media platforms. They would help the public identify what is being delivered by social media algorithms, and thus help protect our democracy.

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Disney has begun populating its parks with autonomous, personality-driven robots

Begun as a project to help populate the park with more interactive elements, the Vyloo are three small alien creatures in a self-contained pod that renders them autonomous. They have moods, interact with guests through non-verbal gestures and cues and are powered by a completely onboard system that can be tuned quickly and left to do its thing.

“What we pitched was a project to try to bring small autonomous animatronic creatures to life. We were really interested in the idea of creating some little guys that could truly respond to and interact with guests,” says Leslie Evans, Senior R&D Imagineer at Disney. She and Alexis Wieland, Executive R&D Imagineer, started the project with the goals to create something that was autonomous, but also created a reaction in the guests that felt like a real emotional relationship. They needed to have a “spectrum of personalities” and then a set of tools that would allow them to dial those attributes up and down before setting them loose on guests.

“I think that a lot of this was coming out of this desire to start thinking about animatronics as actors, so being able to say we want these characters to be shy, we want them to be outgoing ‑‑ trying to define them in terms of personality ‑‑ and then translating all of that into the technical tools that we need to bring the characters to life,” says Evans.

The future of robotics at Disney is thick with emotional context, autonomy and interactivity. It’s focusing incredibly heavily on the emotional quotient of robots, rather than seeking pure efficiencies. But at the same time it needs to make robots that withstand incredible scrutiny from millions of visitors, are robust enough to operate with near perfect uptime 14 hours a day all year long for years.

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Bad News: the game researchers hope will ‘vaccinate’ public against fake news

3323Fake news is already an entire industry, an anti-democratic weapon, a movie, a play, an insult and a cliche.

Now it is being turned into a game – to help people understand its wiles and deceptions.

Cambridge researchers have built an online game, simply titled Bad News, in which players compete to become “a disinformation and fake news tycoon”. By shedding light on the shady practices, they hope the game will “vaccinate” the public, and make people immune to the spread of untruths.

“The idea is that once you’ve seen the tactics, and used them in the game, you build up resistance,” said Sander van der Linden, director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab. “We want the public to learn what these people are doing by walking in their shoes.”

The game distills the art of undermining the truth into six key strategies. Once a player has demonstrated a knack for each, they are rewarded with a badge.

Is there a danger the game might turn players to the dark side? “I think it’s worth taking the risk given how many people we could educate with this.”

The work is due to be published in the Journal of Risk Research.

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Virtual reality training ground helps robots prepare for the real world

The THOR project is an acronym standing for “The House Of inteRactions.” The realistic A.I. training ground, created using the graphical engine Unity, has been in development since the summer 2016. The first version of the software offered 120 different scenes, based around kitchens, living room, bedroom, and bathroom settings. Each one features location-appropriate items to interact with, such as an openable microwave in the kitchen, as well as realistic physics models. The detail even includes such minutiae as empty and full bathtubs and sliceable apples.

In the future, the team behind AI2-THOR plans to expand it further by adding objects with non-rigid physics, letting robots get valuable practice at making beds or moving items of clothing. (Hey, we’re not giving up on our Jetsons-style dream of a robot household helper yet!)



IBM teams up with Unity to bring Watson into virtual reality environments

unsplash-1Companies have begun seriously experimenting with how virtual reality can be applied in work environments to streamline tasks such as product design. Now, IBM Corp. is looking to capitalize on the trend.

As part of the effort, the technology giant today announced a partnership with Unity Technologies Inc., the maker of a popular game engine touted as the industry’s most widely used platform for building VR applications. The software also lends itself to creating augmented realityservices. IBM has collaborated with Unity to build a development kit for the platform that will let companies draw on its cloud-based Watson artificial intelligence suite in their projects.

The offering brings several major capabilities to the table. The first and arguably most versatile of the bunch is the ability to analyze the objects in a virtual environment using Watson Visual Recognition.

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Meet the World’s First Personal Augmented Reality Planetarium

cos_resize_mdUniverse2Go—the world’s first smartphone-based augmented reality viewer—is here to help, by allowing you to view the heavens with unprecedented clarity and insight for just $46.99.

Compatible with both Android and iOS systems, Universe2Go is your go-to gadget for visualizing and understanding the universe. You’ll enjoy a stunning close-up view of the night sky while getting detailed information about what you’re looking at—whether it’s a constellation, planet, or nebula.

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Fake news is an existential crisis for social media

4701856889_99eb6fe6c4_bThe funny thing about fake news is how mind-numbingly boring it can be. Not the fakes themselves — they’re constructed to be catnip clickbait to stoke the fires of rage of their intended targets. Be they gun owners. People of color. Racists. Republican voters. And so on.

The really tedious stuff is all the also incomplete, equally self-serving pronouncements that surround ‘fake news’. Some very visibly, a lot a lot less so.


As Zeynep Tufekci has eloquently argued: “The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself.”

So we also get subjected to all this intentional padding, applied selectively, to defuse debate and derail clear lines of argument; to encourage confusion and apathy; to shift blame and buy time. Bored people are less likely to call their political representatives to complain.

Truly fake news is the inception layer cake that never stops being baked. Because pouring FUD onto an already polarized debate — and seeking to shift what are by nature shifty sands (after all information, misinformation and disinformation can be relative concepts, depending on your personal perspective/prejudices) — makes it hard for any outsider to nail this gelatinous fakery to the wall.


Every gun outrage in America is now routinely followed by a flood of Russian-linked Twitter bot activity. Exacerbating social division is the name of this game. And it’s playing out all over social media continually, not just around elections.


Really, the case for social media regulation is starting to look unstoppable.

But even with unfettered access to internal data and the potential to control content-sifting engines, how do you fix a problem that scales so very big and broad?

Regulating such massive, global platforms would clearly not be easy. In some countries Facebook is so dominant it essentially is the Internet.

So, again, this problem looks existential. And Zuck’s 2018 challenge is more Sisyphean than Herculean.

And it might well be that competition concerns are not the only trigger-call for big tech to get broken up this year.

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How Magic Leap Wants to Help Publishers Bring Their Videos to Mixed Reality (Q&A)

screenshot-2018-02-16-at-10-46-26-amWhat exactly is the Magic Leap Screens platform?

Screens is a platform that traditional video publishers can use to distribute content on Magic Leap. We’ve created a special set of APIs that will be available to key early video publishing partners.

Is this primarily for 2D content, or also holographic video?

The Screens platform showcases both volumetric video and traditional 2D video content. We will have tools and plug-ins to enable volumetric playback of 3D-captured scenes, and there are third parties that can help with the capture and production of sophisticated volumetric video.

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Merge-Goggles-Hero-hi-res Merge_Cube_wht_backgroundNow, Snyder acts as an AR ambassador to his friend group. Sometimes, when friends come over, they see Snyder's Merge AR/VR goggles, which he leaves on the dresser in his bedroom. He’ll slide in his phone, show them how it works, and let them take it for a spin. “Their eyes pop,” he says. “They always ask me, ‘Where can you buy this?’”

Jackie Marsh, a researcher at the University of Sheffield who studies digital literacy in children, says AR experiences can be beneficial for kids, especially when the apps help kids learn something or indulge in their own fantasy play. But research also warns that these types of games, toys, and apps can fail to engage kids meaningfully, or worse, mess with a child's sense of “reality testing”—understanding what's real, and what's not. It all depends on how the AR experience is designed.

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